31 January 2018

On the margins of the 55th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, Vienna

The 10th meeting of the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) took place on 31 January 2018, in Vienna, on the margins of the 55th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. The meeting was chaired by ESA, the current SMPAG chair (2014-2018).

  1. Adoption of the agenda and introduction of participants.

The agenda was adopted. The following agencies and institutions were represented at the meeting (AEM, ASI, Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), BELSPO, CNES, DLR, ESA, ISA, JAXA, KASI, NASA, ROSA). Observers for ASE, COSPAR, ESO, IAA, IAU, the Russian Academy of Sciences and UNOOSA participated at the meeting. A delegation from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) also participated as observer.

  1. Status of SMPAG

The Chair of SMPAG gave an update on the status of SMPAG. The Chair informed the Group that SMPAG approved the Terms of Reference of the SMPAG Ad-hoc Working Group on Legal Issues at its 9th meeting on 11 October 2017 in Toulouse, France.

The SMPAG Chair informed the Group that a letter was sent to the Director of UNOOSA suggesting additional steps to increase the visibility of the work by SMPAG and IAWN, as discussed by SMPAG at its 9th meeting, including to:

  • produce a UN Brochure on NEOs and Planetary Defence for UNISPACE+50 in June 2018;
  • rename the agenda item of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on NEOs to “Near-Earth objects and planetary defence”;
  • explore work together with UNOOSA and its UN-SPIDER programme on possibly including a NEO module in their technical advisory missions to reach their global network of  emergency response-and disaster risk reduction communities on the work of IAWN and SMPAG;
  • proceed to defining an approach for interaction with OOSA and COPUOS in case of a real event.

Some of these recommendations served as inputs for the “Space2030” agenda and draft UNISPACE+50 resolution.

3) Chairmanship of SMPAG for 2018-2020

The SMPAG Chair informed the Group that no delegation has made a proposal for a new SMPAG Chair. At the meeting, several SMPAG members proposed for ESA to continue its chairmanship for another 2-year term (2018-2020). SMPAG voted unanimously in favour of this proposal. ESA thanked the Group for their confidence as well as stressed the importance for SMPAG to start considering who will take on ESA’s chairmanship from 2020 onwards.

4) Members and observers

A representative from CNSA made a brief statement informing the Group about Chinese capabilities in the area of planetary defence and expressed readiness to contribute to the SMPAG efforts in preparing for an international response to a potential NEO impact threat. SMPAG unanimously voted on CNSA becoming the 18th member of SMPAG.  CNSA also thanked ESA for their chairmanship of SMPAG.

5) SMPAG Ad-Hoc Working Group on Legal Issues (SMPAG Legal WG)

The SMPAG Legal WG Coordinator, Line Drube, presented the on-going work of the SMPAG Legal WG that met on the margins of the 55th session of STSC in Vienna, on 30 January 2018 to work on the draft report.  In accordance with its mandate, the SMPAG Legal WG aims to identify what is permissible and what is prohibited under the current treaties and agreements in international space law, and identify issues related to the activities of SMPAG. SMPAG commended the Legal WG on the progress of report.


The UNOOSA representative informed SMPAG on the planned outcomes of UNISPACE+50 at the UNISPACE+50 high-level segment, to be convened on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE), on 20 to 21 June 2018 in Vienna. Recommendations for increasing planetary defence efforts and awareness have been prepared and included in the “Space2030” agenda (document A/AC.105/1166) and draft UNISPACE+50 resolution, which will still be negotiated.

7) Update on IAWN

IAWN held its 5th meeting on 30 January on the margins of the 55th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. At the meeting, the IAWN status was provided by INASAN, KASI, ESA, ESO, INAOE, NASA and JAXA. IAWN informed on five new signatories to its Statement of Intent:

  • Crimean Astrophysical Observatory;
  • The Special Astrophysical Observatory (SAO),
  • Kourovka Observatory, Ural Federal University;
  • The Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics (ISZF);
  • CNSA.

IAWN also informed on the new IAWN webpage, hosted by the University of Maryland:

A representative of UN-SPIDER presented their knowledge portal and the global network of regional support offices and regional centres, affiliated to the UN, with whom the UN-SPIDER works to reach disaster risk reduction communities.

8)  Update on recent relevant missions and programmes

Updates were provided on the following missions and NEO-related activities: Hayabusa2 (JAXA), NEOShield and NEOShield-2 projects and other relevant German activities, including on the MASCOT Science Payload (DLR); HERA Mission (ESA); DART mission, Phase B (NASA).

DLR also informed on the “DLR-Strategie 2030”, DLR’s latest strategy document that also includes references to investigation of planets, asteroids and comets in our Solar System, and our understanding of the potential danger of impacts of NEOs on the Earth. The ESA representative reiterated the importance of having a planetary defence precursor mission. SMPAG has already made such a recommendation in its Statement for a mitigation demonstration mission. A concrete reference to the AIDA mission could be made.         

9) Status of work plan items

Status reports were given on all on-going work plan items.

5.1 Criteria and thresholds for impact response actions (NASA)

5.2 Mitigation mission types and technologies to be considered (UKSA)

5.3 Mapping of threat scenarios to mission types (ESA)

5.4 Reference missions for different NEO threat scenarios (ASI)

5.5 A plan for action in case of a credible threat (NASA/IAA)

5.6 Communication guidelines in case of a credible threat (NASA)

5.7 Roadmap of relevant research for planetary defence (DLR)

5.8 Consequences, including failure, of NEO mitigation space missions (ESA)

5.9 Criteria for deflection targeting (ROSA)

5.11 Toolbox for a characterisation payload (CNES).

NASA presented the criteria and thresholds for impact response actions. ASI presented the work so far, together with ESA and UKSA, and invited SMPAG members to participate in the work item 5.4. A written summary report was provided.

NASA presented progress under 5.6. in preparing communication guidelines in case of a credible threat, and consequent proposed information channels with SMPAG and through UNOOSA to inform COPUOS member States.

Written reports were also provided for items 5.8 by Austria and 5.9 by ROSA.

A splinter meeting on item 5.11 Toolbox for a characterisation payload, organized by CNES.

Item 5.10 on the Study of the nuclear option is still without a lead.

10) Proposal on closer coordination of SMPAG workplan items 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4.

The SMPAG Chair proposed to consider closer coordination on workplan items 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4. The goal could be to establish a database with potential reference missions, open for contribution from all members. The discussion on the way forward for those three workplan items is still on going.

11) Proposal to re-name the agenda item on “Near-Earth objects” of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of COPUOS

SMPAG discussed again and agreed to propose re-naming the agenda item “Near-Earth objects” of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the  Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to “Near-Earth objects and planetary defence”,  to raise awareness among  COPUOS members on all the aspects of on-going activities, from NEO discovery, monitoring and characterization to determine the most effective and appropriate methods for NEO deflection as well as understand the practical and legal implications of NEO deflection. A conference room paper will be prepared in this regard. SMPAG will present the proposal to the Subcommittee in their statements under the agenda item.

12) Planetary defence-related events

SMPAG was informed of several upcoming events related to planetary defence:

  • Workshop: “Near-Earth Objects: Properties, Detection, Resources, Impacts and Defending Earth”, to be held 14 May - 8 June 2018, organized by the Munich Institute for Astro- and Particle Physics (MIAPP)
  • Didymoon Observer Workshop, 19-21 June 2018, Prague, Czechia
  • IAC, 1-5 October 2018, Bremen, Germany (a proposal for a panel on small body hazard

was submitted by ESA)

  • COSPAR 42nd General Assembly, 14-22 July 2018 (“Small Body Hazard” panel)
  • ESA Conference on NEOs and Debris Detection – Exploiting Synergies, 22-24 January 2019, Darmstadt, Germany.
  • Planetary Defense Conference (PDC), planned to be held in the Washington DC area in late spring 2019

13) Next SMPAG meeting:

The 11th meeting of SMPAG will be scheduled in conjunction with the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) meeting, 21-26 October 2018, Knoxville, Tennessee, US.

14) Other matters

  • SMPAG agreed that draft SMPAG papers/documents as well as presentations could be published on the SMPAG webpage with the consent of the authors.


Added 02 Feb 2018, dvk